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Over the next few days as the head for their well-earned holidays, the England players will reflect on the events of the last four months. It feels a long time ago since they arrived for their first day in Eddie Jones’s pre-Rugby World Cup training camp, but the rollercoaster journey that they embarked on led to exactly what the England boss had promised: a chance to win the World Cup.
Only on the biggest stage with the world watching, they came up short. How short? Well that depends on how you view the 32-12 defeat – either one of the heaviest losses in World Cup final history or a scoreline inflated by two late tries when England were chasing the game.
They will ask themselves whether they will ever get another chance to be within touching distance of the Webb Ellis Cup, and for the elder statesmen of the squad in Dan Cole, Courtney Lawes and Joe Marler, this probably was their last shot at World Cup glory.
But the vibe within the squad in the hours after the final defeat was not one of desolation or despair. It was one of disappointment, sure, but also one of pride and fulfilment at the journey they had all been on together. It would be a fair argument to say that there has never been an England camp with closer bonds than this one, with the bonds built over the last four years instrumental to rebuilding what was a broken squad.
England’s 2015 campaign could not have gone much worse following the pool-stage exit that cost Stuart Lancaster his job and Chris Robshaw his captaincy. With no coach, no captain and the worst ever performance from an England squad at a World Cup, the national team was in disarray.
The move by the RFU to appoint Jones – the first foreigner to coach the England national side – was a gamble, but it has somewhat paid off. The aim was to win the World Cup, and by that premise England have failed to deliver what they promised.
But there is now a young and talented core that not only plays powerful, dominant and entertaining rugby, but looks like they’re having fun while doing it. And that’s really the story of this World Cup campaign. The fact that England fans felt able to wear their shirts with pride even in defeat shows ju
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